Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Genres - Musical  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Comedy, Prison Film  |   Release Date - Nov 8, 1957 (USA)  |   Run Time - 96 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mark Deming

If Jailhouse Rock isn't Elvis Presley's best movie, it's close enough to the top of the heap to be essential viewing for anyone interested in The King's legacy, and it's one of his few vehicles which really caught his raw, sexy energy and sneering charisma on film. Playing an ex-con rock & roll singer, Elvis' role isn't much of a stretch here, but it also allows him to let his natural charm shine through, and the film's cynical portrait of the inner working of the music business certainly seems to agree with him. Elvis didn't get many chances to play a character with a dark side or a bad attitude (especially after his hitch in the Army), and Jailhouse Rock finds him reveling in Vince Everett's cocky swagger and seen-it-all cool. Richard Thorpe's direction isn't especially inspired, but he keeps the story moving along well enough, and the production number for the title song is one of the few times Presley's live-wire magnetism made its way through the studio's choreography. Jailhouse Rock plays like a good, tough B-movie with some rockin' musical numbers thrown in, and it certainly serves Elvis and his talent far better than the glossier but empty-headed movies that dominated his post-Army career. Keep your ears peeled for the priceless moment where Elvis shares his opinions on modern jazz!